Nobody turns down the manager at Yang Chow. William Sung once asked a U.S. Secret Service agent for his business card. "He gave it to me," Sung said. "I told him, 'You're no longer secret.' " In 22 years at the popular Chinatown restaurant and downtown institution, Sung has amassed a business card collection numbering in the thousands and organized in binders with loose subcategories.
One huge binder is filled with cards from hundreds of local court officials (judges, defense lawyers, prosecutors, etc.), including nearly every major player from the O.J. Simpson case. "I got one from Judge Ito--the real one, not the dancing one," says Sung, who also seems to collect one-liners. "I got them all except Mark Fuhrman and Marcia Clark. She was very busy with her hairstyle."
Another section could be headed "Feds," mingling cards from officials with the Drug Enforcement Administration, Justice Department, FBI, Immigration and Naturalization Service and the IRS. Sung is particularly fond of cards that display realistic imitations of metal badges. On the local level, Sung has the cards of hundreds of police officers from cities across the country as well as those of many politicians, including Mayor James Hahn's old city attorney card.
Cards from major entertainment executives fill several pages of one binder; the collection also features unusual job titles such as "Terrorism Expert" or "Serious Fraud Officer," and cards from major local sports franchises (Lakers, Clippers, Dodgers and more). Sung has Magic Johnson's business card and one from someone named Larry Bird--but it's not the former basketball legend. "He's says he's Larry Bird, but he's shorter than me," Sung says.
Asked to explain his unusual collection, Sung, 53, lays his cards on the table. "I tried to remember some of the customers," he says. "I started asking for business cards and they'd send more." He also collects autographed photos from celebrities, among them Sidney Poitier and Diane Keaton. "Sometimes they don't have business cards," he says. "I'm still waiting on Sharon Stone's autograph." The celebrity collection includes a photo of Sung standing next to actor Don Johnson. "He and Magic are not related," he deadpans.